Home Outage Preparation
Be prepared, just in case
Learn how best to prepare your home in the event of an outage, what you should have in your emergency kit, and what you need to know about using portable generators safely.
Be prepared. Print off a copy of this information about what to do when the power goes out and keep it with your emergency supplies.
In a power outage, knowledge is power.
- Develop a preparedness plan and share it with your family.
- Make a list of local emergency contact numbers.
- Purchase or prepare an emergency kit and store it in an easy-to-find location.
On this page
- What to do during an outage
- Safety first
- Be prepared
- What should be in an emergency kit?
- Portable generator safety precautions
- Forest fire health and safety tips
Print the Home Outage Preparation Checklist [PDF, 90 KB].
- Check whether the power failure is limited to your home. If your neighbour’s power is still on, check your circuit breaker panel or fuse box.
- Call BC Hydro at 1 888 POWERON (1 888 769 3766) or *HYDRO (*49376) on your cell phone. Tell us about the outage so we can send the right crews and equipment to the right location.
- Tune into your local radio station for storm and power outage updates.
- Turn off all appliances, including home computers and peripherals, especially those that generate heat. This helps prevent hazards or damage when service is restored.
- Turn off all lights except one inside your home and one outside. The inside light lets you know and the outside light lets BC Hydro crews know, when the power is back on.
- Develop a preparedness plan and share it with your family. Be sure everyone knows what to expect and what to do. Have a contingency plan in case power is out for a longer period.
- Make a list of local emergency contact numbers (fire, police, ambulance, etc.). Include 1 888 POWERON (1 888 769 3766) for reporting an outage.
- Prepare an emergency kit and store it in an easy-to find location. Check regularly to make sure the kit is well stocked and that all equipment is in good working order.
- Use surge protectors to protect sensitive electrical equipment such as computers, DVD players and TVs.
- Include a battery operated flashlight in your emergency kit to avoid using candles - they can be a fire hazard.
Never go near or touch a fallen power line. Always assume that a line or anything it is in contact with, is energized. Stay at least ten metres (33 feet) away at all times and do not attempt to remove debris surrounding the line. If you see a fallen power line, report the exact location to 1 888 POWERON.
Prepare for the first 72 hours! Stock your emergency kit with these essentials:
You may need additional supplies for lengthy outages.
Remember to pull out your emergency kit once a year and make sure it still fits the needs of your household. Replace batteries with fresh ones.
- 72-hour emergency kit and preparedness plan: Getprepared.ca.
- Tips on emergency preparedness: B.C. Provincial Emergency Program website.
Home generators can be useful during a power outage but they can also be very dangerous if they are not used properly. Always follow all manufacturers' instructions and contact a qualified electrician or electrical inspector if you have questions.
1. Prevent carbon monoxide poisoning
Carbon monoxide (CO) is a colorless, odourless gas in the engine exhaust. You may not smell the exhaust but could still be exposed to CO.
- Never use a portable generator indoors, including inside a garage or other enclosed or partially enclosed area.
- Only operate portable generators outdoors and at a location where the exhaust cannot enter into your home or other buildings through doors or windows.
- If you start to feel dizzy, nausea, a headache or tired while using a generator, get to fresh air immediately and seek medical attention.
- Use a battery operated CO detector at home. This is also advisable for homes that have a natural gas fired forced air heating system.
2. Prevent electric shock and electrocution
Serious accidents or fire can result when a home generator is improperly connected to an existing house wiring system. Generators that are not isolated can feed back into the BC Hydro electrical grid and possibly electrocute anyone coming into contact with them, including neighbours and BC Hydro or contractor workers.
- It is not permissible to connect a home portable or stationary generator directly to a house wiring system without the proper installation of a CSA-approved transfer switch. An electrical permit is required for the installation and the transfer switch and generator must be inspected and approved by the local electrical inspector. For more information on the correct way to connect your generator and to obtain a permit, please call your electrical contractor or the electrical inspector in your area.
- Never plug a portable generator into a regular household electrical outlet. This can also cause back-feeding to the BC Hydro electrical grid, which is a serious electrical danger to your neighbours and utility workers.
- Plug appliances directly into the generator or use a properly sized CSA-approved 3-pronged extension cord in good condition.
- Use a Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI) portable extension cord if using the portable generator to power electrical tools for outdoor use.
- Keep the generator dry and protected from rain and snow.
3. Prevent fire
Improper fuel handling, improperly installed or overheated generators are fire hazards.
- Do not store fuel in the home. Fuels should be stored in properly labelled and vented fuel storage containers in a well-ventilated building or storage shed away from living areas. Do not store fuel near the generator or other fuel-burning or heat-producing appliance.
- Shut down the generator and allow it to cool before refuelling.
- Do not overload the generator.
To obtain information on electrical permits, please contact the BC Safety Authority.
Cooking safety precautions
Portable stoves, lamps and other camping equipment can be useful, but they should be stored, along with their fuels, in a shed or garage that is separated from the house. Liquid fuels give off combustible vapours and should be kept outside the house at all times. Outdoor and charcoal barbecues should never be used indoors. They are a fire and safety hazard and can emit deadly carbon monoxide.
There are specific risks associated with forest fires, including exposure to smoke, food safety and water quality.
Please see Interior Health’s Forest Fire Health Information section for details on these risks and how to deal with them.